Monday, December 23, 2013

I❤️ Utah--Merry Christmas

While driving through Ogden one evening,  I saw that the city hall had put up a large lighting display.  It was unlike any I'd seen in many, many years and I was immediately struck by the large "Happy Birthday Jesus!" sign.  After asking a local about it, I was informed this is an annual event in Ogden called The Christmas Village--notice it is NOT called The Holiday Village.  I remember displays in shop windows at Christmas in my hometown and how much I enjoyed the animated figures and masses of people shuffling along the sidewalk from one window to the next. This last weekend I took my own children to enjoy a wonderful local Christmas tradition.

Lil' Lamb loved all the "yights".

The village is filled with more than 60 little cottages decked out by local businesses.  This is the E.L.F. Bakery complete with animated figures decorating cookies.

Of course our kiddos had to visit the Ski Shop.

The Chapel of Hope

The ruffians with one final pose.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Crockpot Beef Carbonnade

I was visiting a dear friend one day and she had her crockpot going and what was inside smelled absolutely delicious, I had to have the recipe.  I am not a big fan of crockpot food.  I love the idea, but very rarely do I love the results.  This recipe actually works and is definite keeper.  The recipe I'm posting today is my friend's, but I did tweak it a little for our family's particular tastes.

Beef Carbonnade Over Noodles

2 lbs lean beef stew meat cut into bite sized pieces (I did not use lean stew meat, but some nicely marbled chuck)
2 T flour 
¼ t salt
1/8 t pepper
2 T olive oil
14 oz. can beef broth
2 large onions, halved and sliced thins (I used only one red onion and that was plenty for my family)
1 clove garlic, crushed
12 oz dark beer
12 oz. egg noodles, cook and drain
Fresh parsley leaves, chopped (I forgot the parsley)

Toss well in bowl: beef, flour, salt/pepper.   Heat 1 T oil in  skillet on medium high.  Brown ½ beef  on medium high ½.  Remove and repeat with other ½ beef.  Remove beef and add 1 can broth to skillet.  Boil 1 minute.   In crockpot, stir sliced onions, garlic, and beer.  Top with beef and broth.  Cover and cook on low 8 hours.  Serve over noodles and top with parlsey.  

I love mushrooms but some of the kids don't, so I sautéed 16 oz of fresh sliced mushrooms in butter and some of the cooking liquid from the beef, and added those to individual plates.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Hibernation Mode

I know I've been quite quiet on the blog of late.  Of course, I've been somewhat busy preparing for Christmas, but there is something about this time of year and the bitter cold that puts me deep into mama bear hibernation mode.  There is plenty of house work to keep me busy, but too often I've found myself huddled up under the covers reading or watching Masterpiece Theater offerings.  My two most recent discoveries being Gunnar's Daughter by Sigrid Undset and Lark Rise to Candleford, courtesy of the BBC.  Both are quite lovely diversions from housework.  What are your favorite distractions?  I may need a few recommendations once I finish all four seasons of Lark Rise!

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is it too Much to Ask?

Is it too much to ask for cooperation with photos for the annual Christmas card?  Apparently it is.  Although this year's offering isn't nearly the fail of three years ago (see here). I had one teenager absolutely refuse to be in any photos taken by me, another child unhappy he/she had to be in photos with siblings, and two more express that the Christmas photo shoot was always so stressful.  Wow, really?  Could the stress possibly be attributed to the complete lack of cooperation? Ugh.  So it isn't what I had hoped, but this is what we put together for our Christmas card this year.  A couple were from our my planned Christmas card photo shoot while at the Japanese Gardens in Spokane. One is of number one son playing basketball (obviously he refused to cooperate at all), and the final photo was taken in Oklahoma City just before a wedding.  It's not completely horrible, but it isn't at all what I had envisioned.  Sigh.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Narcissist or Beautiful Music?

I could blog about our idiot president and the embarrassment he caused at the Mandela funeral yesterday.  Who takes selfies at a funeral???  At least Michelle looked livid.

Or I could post a video that has been making the rounds on Facebook from an incredibly talented group of a cappella musicians.

Today, beautiful music wins.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Snow Babies

We got over a foot of snow over the weekend.  Of course, the snow blower is in the shop and Wingnut was on a trip.  I shoveled the driveway 4 times in less than 24 hours.  Posting these photos of my very cute snow babies is all the blogging I have the energy for today.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

O Root of Jesse

It has taken three years, (well really only about 3 months but then it sat for nearly three years before I finally decided to finish) but our beautiful cross stitched Jesse Tree ornaments are done and ready to be used, just in time for Advent!

I am mostly pleased with how they turned out, especially since I really am not a huge fan of handcraft projects that take months to complete.  I am also not a fan of following instructions, so I messed up the centering on a few of the finished ornaments, but only a crafter would really notice.  I recently learned from a blog follower that the company that sells this particular set's instructions is no longer in business and you can no longer find the instructions anywhere.  Thankfully, I still have my copy!

Wingnut wants us to support our local Knights of Columbus by purchasing a live Christmas tree from them each year.  Normally, we don't put up our Christmas tree until the very last week of Advent, sometimes not until Christmas Eve.  I was wracked with guilt last year as we decorated our tree the first week of Advent instead of waiting.  Just kidding, but I do like to keep with tradition and so I am thrilled to have this project ready to go.  The tree arrives this Saturday and we'll decorate it with lights and a ribbon garland that I have written upon it the lineages of Christ.  Each day, throughout the remainder of Advent, the Jesse Tree ornaments will be added to the tree and we'll read a bible story, or verse, or Psalm that is appropriate for that particular ornament. 

My stitching instructions did not advise as to which story or verse the ornaments matched up to. Some are obvious--such as the rainbow, or the apple and serpent.  Unfortunately, some are not nearly as obvious, and are in fact down right obscure.  Like the above.  Now, most might say this represents the donkey Mary rode into Bethlehem, but they would be wrong.  The title of this ornament is "Messianic Promise".  The ornaments are in chronological order and this ornament is between the Ten Commandments and The Conquest of Jericho.  I searched through the Old Testament trying to find what in the world this ornament refers to.  The only story I could find was an obscure story about  a donkey that was compelled by God to speak to his rider.  I can't even find it again.  No matter, it really said nothing about the Messianic promise.  For this ornament we'll read a Messianic prophesy from Psalms or Isaiah.
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Arches and Canyonlands

Sorry for the lack of posting, but we took a mini vacation into the wild lands of Utah for some hiking and site seeing and made it back just in time for the Thanksgiving cooking marathon.

Utah has so much to offer the outdoor lovers in our family and I'll tell you, late fall is the time to go to some of these national parks.  We missed the crowds and the heat and the brisk weather was nearly perfect.  We hiked nearly 13 miles in two days and saw some absolutely spectacular scenery and geological features.  Here are just a few photos from our adventures.

This was just one of the views on the drive.

Entrance to Arches National Park

Within Arches National Park

Balanced Rock (one of many)

Our outdoor lovers against the diverse landscape of Arches

Turret Arch

Beneath Double Arch

North Window Arch

Petroglyphs near Delicate Arch (We did not make it to the famous Delicate Arch, after hiking 2.5 of the 3 miles to the arch the sun was almost set and we had to turn back.  We had to run much of the way back to the car to beat the sunset)

The next morning we explored Canyonlands National Park.  We were above the cloud cover.  I love this shot of the clouds pouring into the canyon.

Hiking into the clouds--this is not fog, but actual clouds!

Peering into the cloud filled canyon

After several hours the clouds did finally lift and we were able to see into one side of the canyons.

Peering into the expansive depths of Canyonlands

Canyonlands seen through the Mesa Arch

Wilderness family at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Natural Healing

I've been fighting off some kind of crud, and fairly successfully too.  I'm attributing that to the natural remedies I've employed.  I feel just fine during the day, just as long as I keep drinking my raw honey lemon tea with echinacea/goldenseal tincture and colloidal silver about three times a day.  I manage to sleep alright, but in the morning I'm not feeling as well and I'm coughing up something grody and chunky.  I'm just thankful that within half an hour of taking my remedies,  I am not only functional but feeling pretty normal. Unfortunately, as long as I'm battling this, I'm not running.  Figures, once I get into a good running groove life throws a curve ball.

Lil' Lamb has done awesome potty training.  Unfortunately he has a raging diaper rash.  How can that be when he is not wearing diapers?  The most plausible explanation is the candy rewards he was receiving at the beginning of potty training.  He showed a preference for tootsie rolls.  I was aware the chocolate tootsie rolls had milk in them, but I had no idea the other flavors did as well.  They may have just a trace in them, but after 20-30 of those for the tinkler, it was enough milk to cause him to break out.  I've tried diaper creams, and eczema creams to no avail.  I made a homemade ointment with just three ingredients--virgin coconut oil, tea tree oil, and lavender oil.  In just 12 hours his rash has drastically improved, and he smells real good, too. No more tootsie rolls for him!

Recipe for rash cream: 15 oz jar organic coconut oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons tea tree oil, 1/2 tablespoon lavender oil; put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a mixer. Use liberally and as needed.  Tea tree oil is the active ingredient in this concoction and terrific for skin ailments, fungi, and infections. It is very strong and needs dilution with a carrier oil.  Coconut oil is a good choice here as it has wonderful skin healing properties, too.  The lavender oil is added so that his bum smells sweet. Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How Cool is This

Several weeks ago, Patricia McQuillan from the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-Saint Paul called me.  The Archdiocese was in the process of organizing a big vocations campaign and her office was putting together photos and materials for a banner for the campaign.  Her office had come across a  photo of a little girl on the day of her First Holy Communion.  In the photo she is surrounded by a trio of young, beautiful, smiling nuns.  The office had tracked down the order--and I'm sure you know where I'm heading with this--the order was, of course, the Sister Servants.  The sisters were able to not only identify the nuns in the photo, but also the sweet little girl, who just happens to be our own little Special K.  Patricia was calling to get our permission to use this image on their vocations posters.  We gave our consent and her office emailed a prototype of the banner to us so that we could see what it would look like.  We thought that was pretty cool.

Last week, Patricia emailed me again.  The Archdiocese had been very pleased with the finished banner and the print shop had made a special one in a smaller size just for Special K to have.  Yesterday, Special K received this in the mail:

It's an incredibly nice banner, made of vinyl, that will last for years.  The vocations office also sent a personal note to Special K and a holy card with a prayer for vocations on the back.  How cool is that!

P.S. I am aware her real name shows up on the envelope. :)

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Baked Gnocchi

This is a favorite around here.  I've adapted this recipe to suit our food issues.

Baked Gnocchi
serves 6-8

24 ounces packaged gnocchi (I used whole wheat gnocchi)
1 pound bacon, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tsp paprika
28 ounce can plum tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
2 ounces semi-soft goat cheese
2 cups shredded cheese (I use peccorino toscano, but mozzarella or another soft melting cheese will work)

Preheat oven to 425.

In a large sauce pan or sauté pan with high sides, sauté bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.  Spoon bacon on to a layer of paper towels with a slotted spoon and pour off bacon fat leaving just enough in the pan to coat it.  Over low heat add garlic, paprika, and tomato paste and sauté until tomato paste begins to caramelize.  In a bowl, crush tomatoes with your hands until fairly uniform, but still a bit chunky. Add to garlic, paprika, tomato paste in pan along with sugar and bring to a simmer.  Stir in goat cheese until fully melted and the sauce is creamy, set aside.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions.  When done, use a slotted spoon to move gnocchi to sauce.  Stir to combine.  Pour into a large casserole dish and add all but 1/2 cup of reserved bacon.  Stir to combine.  Top with shredded cheese and last 1/2 cup of bacon.  Put into oven and bake until cheese is melted and beginning to brown--about 10 minutes.  Allow to rest for several minutes before serving.  Garnish with basil chiffonade.  If you can get pancetta, sub for the bacon.  It raises this dish just a touch more :)

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Be Not Afraid

I am a bit late to the Common Core Standards discussion. Implemented right under our noses, I was most likely more concerned with the HHS mandate, gay marriage laws being passed, or any other number of alarming events that were occurring at the time. It barely registered on my radar, because we homeschool and I had no inkling of how an ever more nationalized education system might affect even homeschoolers.

This past Friday my eyes were opened and I began to take notice of Common Core, thanks to a group of Catholic homeschool moms that met for a poetry recitation/get together. Common Core was the hot topic and after listening for a bit, I was deeply worried. My research and activism has just begun, but I do not think I am too late.

These are just few of my big concerns with Common Core:

--It doesn't matter how the bureaucrats twist their words, Common Core Standards nationalize education in a way it has not done before. This is out and out a violation of several statutes (The General Education Provisions Act, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) and the Constitution (see the 10th Amendment) and tramples all over states rights to oversee education.

--It doesn't matter how the bureaucrats twist the statistics, Common Core Standards are subpar. Several distinguished educators who were on the Common Core State Standards validation committee refused to sign off in final approval of the standards, citing that the standards as proposed would not lead to greater college readiness, but instead result in further decline in American student's math and english proficiency. Read more on the validation committee findings here.

--Right now, one of homeschoolings greatest protections is state's rights to govern education. Each state passes and enforces its own laws regarding the rights and obligations of homeschoolers. Some states are more hands off than others, but in all 50 states homeschooling is currently legal. "Race to the Top" and other federal incentives have led to 45 states enacting Common Core to some degree. Here in Utah, Common Core standards in math and english have been put into action. 900 million dollars was awarded to the state for signing on. No one can explain where that 900 million dollars went. If education is completely nationalized, homeschooling protections are definitely at risk.

--College entrance exams have or will change to reflect Common Core. Homeschoolers not using Common Core could be at a disadvantage.

I could compile a much longer list of Common Core evils--the nation database, social engineering, subversion of the parent child relationship, etc.

Why should we not be overly worried? First off, Common Core is untested and untried. It is bound to fail. Unfortunate for those students used as guinea pigs, but I am confident Common Core will be abandoned in the future. Secondly, the homeschool lobby is large and powerful and proactive. As I type, numerous advocates for homeschoolers are working hard to deter and thwart Common Core's effect on the homeschooling community. Lastly, as far as high education is concerned, I am convinced the idiom is true--"the cream will rise to the top". If homeschoolers stay the course and continue providing their children with well rounded, superior, individualized instruction, homeschoolers will continue to excel and surpass their Common Core educated peers.

I love this last paragraph from an article on Common Core in Seton Magazine:

“Be not afraid,” must be our motto. We must trust that by providing our children with high quality home school experience, they will be ready for future college study and to assume their places as citizens of faith, integrity, and moral character.

So, what can you do to stop Common Core?  Find a group locally that is educating and lobbying against Common Core.  Learn as much as you can so that you can effectively refute pro-Common Core arguments.  Write your governor, congressmen, and legislatures.  Get involved, stay on top, and keep on praying for our country and its future.
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Too Smart for Us

Well, the little guy was more than ready for potty training.  The potty chair wasn't in the house but five minutes before he used it successfully.  He has been diaper free for 6 days now.  Rewards are a very powerful motivator for him.  Almost too powerful, and he is a bit too smart.  He learned almost immediately that he could tinkle just a tiny bit and get a piece of candy.  As soon as that piece of candy was consumed he was on the potty chair tinkling again.  He had no fewer than 30 pieces of candy the first day.  I began to think we would never be able to leave the house.  I was being played.  After a couple days, I took the reward system away.  He would go several hours without needing to go, but then he had several accidents that day.  Like I said, rewards are a powerful motivator.  Yesterday I introduced a sticker chart.  He now needs to use the potty 5 times before getting any candy.  He's back to tinkling every five minutes, but at least the candy consumption has decreased a bit.  He now goes longer periods between dribbles and there have many very few accidents in-between. The stickers are nice, but not as awesome as candy, so he isn't as fixated on the rewards.

If this toddler were to be the easiest about anything, I'm surprised potty training was the thing.  As easy as he has been, potty training is never fun. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, November 14, 2013

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} November 14

round button chicken


Lil' Lamb and I were up very early one morning this week and were blessed with this beautiful sunrise.


One of the best aspects of homeschooling this year is that we have had time to do ACTUAL experiments with our science curriculum.  There have been many years when my poor kids have only been able to read about concepts and potential experiments due to different circumstances--needy infants, marauding toddlers, etc.  Special K love, love, loves science and being able to DO science makes her happy, happy, happy.


The weather has been unseasonably warm.  It's allowed me to do a bit more yard work before the snow really begins to fly.  I wasn't able to track down Lil' Lamb one afternoon until I checked the shed.  He was sitting happily on the Husqvarna.  He soon deserted the shed once he realized he wouldn't be able to start the Husqvarna.  Silly boy.


Our garden plot is very rocky.  One of my projects has been to at least reduce the number of larger stones.  This is 4 loads of rock that have been put to good use in the landscaping.  I will have plenty more to fill it all in.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Making Over Another Room

As soon as our oldest son moved out, Skoshi A lay claim to his room.  She has always shared a room with one sister or another and it is time she has her own.  She has settled on a Middle Earth themed room, which is perfect.  The room is already painted a lovely shade of soft moss green and lends itself very well to her idea.  This will be a slow make over.  We've pinned all sorts of ideas and accessories to make this room perfect, but we need to spread out the cost over several months.  So far we have purchased new bedding--an earthy brown quilted coverlet, a soft green window scarf, gilded scrolled sconces, and rubbed bronze light and outlet plate covers.  We have plans to purchase some gorgeous decorative pillows and cushions for her bed.  One of which is the map of Middle Earth.  We'll need a dresser scarf, a new decorative light fixture, and wall art.  As we make changes, I'll post photos of our progress here.

Skoshi A's room before

The light fixture and window treatment that need to be replaced

The new window treatment.  I'm thinking I may replace her blinds with a darker wood tone.
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Monday, November 11, 2013

God Bless our Veterans

I really don't have very many photos of Wingnut in uniform.  He didn't even wear a uniform at his retirement ceremony. When he came home and through the door, the uniform came off and I love him for it.  Work is work and family is family and he has always kept them as separate as possible.  I am so grateful to him and to all other veterans and their families that have made and continue to make sacrifices in service to our country.  May God bless and protect them!

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Friday, November 8, 2013

And We have a Winner

Congrats Katie!  Your gift card to Amazon will be in the mail shortly.  Click on the saint's name to learn more about these awesome Catholic saints.
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guess the 4 Saints Correctly and Win a Prize

Last Friday I posted the photos of my children dressed in their All Saints costumes.  Because they successfully stumped their homeschool peers at the party, I thought it might be fun to see if any of my readers could guess all four correctly.  So far only two have ventured to guess--one made a guess at all four and the other guessed only one.  I haven't had a reader guess all four correctly yet.  So this is your chance.  A $25 gift card to Amazon is up for grabs. Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

While Waiting for Downton to Return . . .

. . . you may enjoy the series currently airing on Masterpiece Classic--The Paradise.  My sister and I are completely hooked.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

More Photos from the Week and a Guessing Game in Which You Might Win a Prize

The last few days have been hectically busy.  We had trunk or treat at our parish the day before Halloween.  Trunk or treat at our neighborhood ward on Halloween.  Finally, we had a homeschool All Saints Party after Mass at a Salt Lake City Parish.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow when all candy will be banished!  Lil' Lamb on three days straight of sugar is not pretty!

I would not recommend getting specialized pumpkin carving kits.  They are extremely intricate and errors are much too easy to make.  I ended up having to carve the little boys' Angry Birds and Skoshi A had all kinds of problems with her Thor.

Special K was smart and chose a simple scary cat pattern.

Here is Lil' Lamb as the Blue Ninja from Ninjago--his latest obsession.

The three ruffians all costumed and ready for more candy.

The All Saints Party was spectacular!  First we had Mass celebrated by a lovely (I believe Polish) priest.  The parish is named for Saint Martin de Porres and is blessed enough to possess an actual relic of the Saint.  Wingnut Jr. was chosen to carry the relic to the altar.  He was so excited and did it so carefully and with great reverence.  After Mass we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet and as the Litany of the Sacred Heart was prayed, we all slipped out to join the party in the parish basement.

There were at least 30 costumed children and they had such a grand time trying to guess each other's saint.  My kids outdid themselves and stumped the crowd with three of the costumes.  I thought it would be fun to see how many of you might be able to correctly guess which saints our kiddos dressed as.  The first commenter that gets all 4 correct will win a fabulous $25 gift card to Amazon.  I'll give just a few hints to help you out, and you have until next Friday, November 8, 2013 to make your guess.  If I don't have a winner by then, I will randomly draw a name from all entered for the gift card.

This is one of the 8 North American Martyrs, one of the companions of Saint Issac Jogues and a lay brother.

This saint is the patron of England and Catalonia.  One of the favorite legends regarding this saint has him slaying a dragon.

This dutch maiden saint is the patroness of ice skaters and the chronically ill.

This Irish saint fled Ireland to avoid being married off to a heathen king.  She and her companions were trapped in a cave by a landslide where they finally died.  Upon opening the cave, many years later, her body was found intact and incorrupt.

Good luck or happy searching!

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